A Melody To Know Her By

I loved sitting behind my mother in the car. She was never without music. I looked at her like that. That’s my memory. I saw her happiness as she increased the volume of every colossal rock icon. I would ask questions and she would answer them all. She also knew about their lives, not just the songs. I knew when my mother was happy; it always came to me via the music she listened to. And even though I did not understand the mostly English lyrics at that time, they set the mood in the car.

I could daydream like that. My mother holding the wheel. I was safe. The melodies took us away, anywhere we wanted to go. We had very different dreams, a girl and a woman. I didn’t know her thoughts, she might have known mine, but we were together.

Music had always been the expression of my mother’s emotions. When she was angry she would listen to one particular song over and over again and we all knew to stay clear of the kitchen or the hallway. She was helping herself when nobody else did or was there, when she felt alone and probably isolated. I don’t know why we didn’t dare enter the room with her anger in it. Maybe it was directed toward us because we did something wrong and sometimes there might have been a deeper reason. We shared her happiness and ran away from her occasional anger. Music, the middleman, had always been comforting to all of us, the cotton to land on softly.

We all sing in cars because we are getting away for a while. There is something liberating about it. The movement and sound, the progression toward anything and the emotion that goes with it. Whatever that is.


“Pierrot chantant et jouant de la guitare au milieu de la foule en fête (détail)” by Adolphe Willette (1857-1926)

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